8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on Holy Ground
Legacy of Controversial Grant

In his report to the assembly WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser referred to a controversy that erupted 20 years ago over a grant given by the Council's Programme to Combat Racism to the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, an armed liberation group. Critics of the grant claimed it might have been used for violent purposes rather than for education and development. At a press conference following the speech, a US journalist asked Raiser to expand on his admission that the "memory of the crisis caused by the 1978 grant... is still alive".

"I have never had doubts about the propriety and advisability of the grant," Raiser said. The decision to make the grant was affirmed two years later when Zimbabwe gained its independence, Raiser added. "Today Zimbabwe respects the rights of its white minority while giving equal rights to its black majority."

In a speech to the assembly Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe praised the WCC for its "courageous gesture" in setting up the Programme to Combat Racism. "Today I present to you the country your grant helped, the children whose lives you saved... They know who brought them the loaves and fishes that saved their lives."

Worship at Rufaro stadium

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order
(ref. 7088-09a)

At Rufaro stadium: from left to right, His Holiness Aram I, Rv. Dr Konrad Raiser and Bishop Paride Taban of the diocese of Torit, Sudan

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7089-16)

Delegates in Harare observed the 30th anniversary of the WCC's Special Fund to Combat Racism, which has made grants totalling US$11.5 million since its founding in 1970. Last year grants totalling $159,000 were given to 18 groups around the world. Among them:
  • a coalition of US church leaders whose churches have been burned or firebombed in racist attacks;
  • an organization in the Netherlands that promotes minority participation in the European business community;
  • an indigenous community in Taiwan that is trying to recover and preserve its unique cultural identity.

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